Express Pharma

Packaging as a branding tool

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The pharma industry, in particular, has several functional requirements when it comes to packaging. Dr NC Saha, Director, Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), elaborates on how packaging has evolved over the years

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Dr NC Saha

Packaging in India has gained fillip under the ‘Make in India’ vision. Indian brands have to become global super brands with superior packaging. Industry estimates that the global pharmaceutical packaging market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7 per cent from 2013 to 2018, reaching a value of $78.8 billion. In India as well, two sectors are driving the growth of the packaging industry: food and beverage and pharma.

We are an evolved market in terms of packaging today. The term ‘packaging’ is no more restricted to its basic functions like containment or agglomeration, protection, preservation and presentation of consumer goods. Today, packaging plays a key role in marketing by developing shelf-appeal. It also provides product information such as ingredients, storage conditions, manufacturing and expiry date, batch with lot number, gross and net weight, MRP and more importantly, helps establish the brand image of consumer goods.

Evolution of brand-packaging in pharma: anti-counterfeit measures

Packaging and branding are complimentary to each other because brand identification is possible only through packaging. The brand name is printed on the outer surface of a package and the packaged goods are saleable only through good branding.

The pharma industry, in particular has several functional requirements when it comes to packaging. Other than the obvious need to make attractive OTC products like protein powders and vitamin pills, that people buy with or without a prescription, there are important functions that packaging has to do.

Also, in the mind of the consumer, a good pharma brand should be able to protect itself with smart packaging that has anti-counterfeit measures built in.

Some of the examples are mentioned below:

  • New packaging technologies attracting interest have been developed to prevent counterfeiting of drug products. Tamper-evident packaging systems include specially designed film wrappers, shrink seals and bands, caps that must be broken to access an internal seal, and sealed tubes that require puncturing.
  • For parenteral formulations, with two-in-one prefilled vials, which have the water and active ingredient in separate chambers designed to allow mixing prior to use, it’s easy to detect tampering.
  • Some companies may use hidden features on labels, such as fluorescing fibres or chemical reagents as encrypted text visible only under special light, while others choose to use watermarks or metallic threads as an optically variable device with images that flip or transition. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are also used to track drug products.
  • Functional security labels are also finding increasing use, including holographic labels, specially cut paper labels that only tear off, labels made of cellulose acetate or vinyl films that fragment when removed, and self-adhesive labels that, when removed, exhibit the word VOID (or another word) in the adhesive and the removed film.
  • New ink jet coding, laser coding, and metal electrolytic etching technologies are also being employed as anti-counterfeiting measures because they enable rapid, flexible, online coding at reasonable cost, particularly due to the use of digital printing techniques.
  • Colour-shifting inks (formulated with special pigments) that appear to change colour with the viewing angle are increasingly being used in security seals due to the ability to control the details of the colour change.
  • Pharma packaging companies also offer anti-counterfeiting technologies based on forensic markers, such as trace chemicals and biological compounds that can only be detected when using specially designed test kits or in the laboratory.

Better branding requires better packaging technology

Global innovations in packaging are routinely shared at our biennial conference, Indiapack that hosts 300 exhibitors from over 30 countries. We showcase state-of-the-art packaging machinery, materials, services and packaging solutions to the brand owners.

International best practices are also showcased; so as to give impetus to the ‘make in India’ campaign.

Rahul Bhargav of Ranbaxy is our alumnus. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Biocon, Dabur and other pharma companies are regulars at our events, and most of the packaging professionals in the industry are our alumni. Industry engagement and learning is a critical part of packaging among brands.

Recognise excellence in packaging for branding

Every year, IIP organises the IndiaStar awards that recognise excellence in packaging. The winners of the India Star compete at the Asia Star awards against the best packaging trends in Asia. Similarly, the winners at the Asia Star, go on to compete at the World Star awards against the best in the world.

Our winners, over the years have been 3M, Britannia, Castrol, CavinCare, Biocon, Dabur, Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Emami, ITC, JK Helene Curtis, Larsen Toubro, Mondelez India, Nestle, Himalaya Drug Company, Zydus etc. The active participation of these brands, makes me understand the importance they give to packaging.

Packaging as enabler

Packaging is no longer selected in the last stages of drug development and commercialisation. A recognition that the appropriate choice of packaging can impact not only the marketability of a drug, but also aid in theft-prevention and patient compliance, has led to the consideration of packaging as an integral component of final formulated biotherapeutics.

At the same time, advances in packaging technologies are creating opportunities for greater product differentiation and better management of products across the value chain.

It should be noted that this value includes drug delivery systems that are also considered to be product packaging.

Specifically for biopharmaceuticals, the fastest growing packaging types are prefillable syringes and parenteral vials, which are required to meet the packaging and delivery needs of new biologic drugs that must be injected. Other areas of the pharma packaging market seeing the greatest growth include labels and accessories, blister packs, temperature-controlled medicines packaging, and select niche products.

Packaging as differentiator

While so far, we have been talking about tangible packaging, I must use this opportunity to bring out one of the most well-packaged, well-differentiated experiences of our time.

A stellar case study for product differentiation was in the early 2000s, when Google began taking over the search engine business on the Internet.

Before Google, there were a variety of options to use if you had to search for something online. While most of those search engines would give you the same, adequate results, they also all followed the same presentation, which at the time was pretty much just a list of web pages among some busy advertisements, news links, and images.

Google’s differentiation strategy was twofold. First, simplicity. Google was minimalistic. When you went to Google.com, you saw two things: the name ‘Google’ and a box where you could type your search term. Users loved the design of it. The second differentiation was the algorithm used to find the results that would be returned to the user. This would come to be a very important differentiation, but one that the end user wasn’t always aware existed.

So we can learn from un-related industries as well. Packaging for brand differentiation is everywhere. In every industry, IIP knows that packaging can make people talk about you; give your product conversation value.

Current projects on packaging for branding

We work with APEDA, MPEDA and commodity boards on various projects to improve the packaging of their produce, both functionally and aesthetically.

Some of IIP’s best work has been with

  • Bhuttico: Since 1944, Bhuttico has been keeping alive the Himalayan traditions in step with the latest trends in shawls. In 1993-94 Bhuttico proved itself the best in the business of handloom shawls by winning the National Award (GOLD) from the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. A group of 12 weavers from Bhutti village came together in the year 1944 and established a cooperative society known as the Bhutti Weavers Cooperative Society. We have helped them with attractive packaging solutions to market their products.
  • Nalen Gud packaging for Biswa Bangla: As a step towards offering its celebrated culinary heritage, the Department of MSME and Textiles, West Bengal, approached the IIP to improve the shelf life ofBengals best kept secret- liquid nolen gur (jaggery) –that goes intotheir proprietary delicacy, sandesh, a statement issued said. These shelf-life studies of liquid jaggery in packaged form are now concluded and the final packaging is being deliberated.

Packaging as a branding tool: Industry impetus

Packaging consumption in India has grown 100 per cent in the last decade, with the per capita consumption of packaging in India, now at 8.6 kg per person per year. However, continuous development and growth is critical, so that packaging can develop further. Especially since the new consumer, is ordering products at home, and experiencing the brand at home, thanks to e-commerce, packaging has become even more important.

Any industry needs impetus in terms of

  • Technology
  • Recognition
  • Platform to voice concerns
  • Education
  • Policy support and impetus.

Through our many programmes round the year, we endeavour to do this.

For eg, at the World Packaging Congress, which happened in October 2015, three parallel conferences on product packaging were hosted. They were

  • Packaging of agro commodities, pharmaceutical and consumer products, industrial products.
  • Flexible packaging, rigid packaging, ancillary materials, automation and logistics.
  • Packaging research conclave exclusively for the researchers to deliver a talk on the abstracts of different research topics related to packaging.

It is now proven beyond doubt that packaging is an intergral part of branding. We are working towards enhancing the industry’s understanding of the same.

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